Catholic men gather ‘Together in Christ’

SOUTH END -- For about 1,500 Catholic men, a recent gathering at the archdiocese’s mother church proved to be spiritual refreshment.

On Saturday, April 17, the archdiocese held its sixth annual Boston Catholic Men’s Conference. This year’s event was at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and was titled “Crossing the Goal: Together in Christ.”

Speakers at the conference included the hosts of EWTN’s “Crossing the Goal” -- Peter Herbeck, Danny Abramowicz, and Curtis Martin. Herbeck spoke on the topic of conversion, and Abramowicz, a former wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers and assistant coach under Mike Ditka with the Chicago Bears and Saints, spoke about transformation. Martin, the president and founder of FOCUS Ministries, which provides campus ministers to colleges and universities locally and nationally, spoke on the topic of mission in the morning and returned in the afternoon session to speak about the gift of the priesthood in honor of this Year for Priests.

Other speakers included Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, who gave the opening remarks and served as the main celebrant and homilist for the conference Mass, and Father Paul O’Brien, pastor of Saint Patrick Parish in Lawrence, who spoke about his founding of the Cor Unum Meal Center.

Scot Landry, the archdiocese’s Secretary for Institutional Advancement helped organize and administer the conference and served as the day’s emcee.

The day also included Eucharistic adoration, confession, a question and answer session with the Crossing the Goal team, and a chance to visit exhibitors from Catholic entities across New England.

“It’s always nice to get together with a whole group of men and spend a day focusing on faith and how I can improve some of the areas of my faith,” said Gerry McCarthy, a parishioner of St. Camillus Parish in Arlington, who attended his second conference.

Herbeck began his talk by discussing the conversion of St. Paul from persecutor of Christians to preacher of the faith, and the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection.

He also encouraged attendees to devoutly live the Catholic faith.

“If the hearts of men pour into Jesus Christ and you put all your skin in the game, you will set this diocese on fire,” Herbeck emphatically said to applause.

Abramowicz followed Herbeck, and in his talk he discussed the role the Holy Spirit should play in the lives of today’s men.

“He has to be our personal trainer,” he said. “We need the Holy Spirit in our life to help us along the way in our spiritual battle.”

To that end, Abramowicz suggested that men engage in a spiritual workout regimen of prayer, confession, Mass, and discussion groups.

Attendees found Abramowicz’s advice useful.

“It’s just putting all the pieces together,” said Russ Tremblay, parishioner of St. Monica Parish in Methuen, who attended the conference for the first time this year. “It’s not just doing one thing. It’s capturing all the different pieces.”

Martin, talking on the topic of mission, said men are called on to build the culture.

“Our culture is in ruins, which means you have to live differently,” he said.

He called on the attendees to live in a “total and radical way” and be “men of Jesus Christ.”

In his afternoon talk, Martin said Catholics today have to encourage and pray for one another, and he called for a deepening conviction of loyalty to priests.

Near the close of his talk, he asked all priests present to stand and be acknowledged for their work. The attendees responded with a standing ovation. To conclude his talk, he led a prayer for priests.

During the course of the day, men were invited to submit questions that the Crossing the Goal team could answer during an afternoon question and answer session. Live questions were also taken from the audience during the session.

The questions broached topics on which the Catholic faith could provide insight such as what one can do after having a vasectomy, how to combat a lust for pornography, today’s Catholic role models, and the media coverage of Pope Benedict XVI and the sexual abuse crisis.

Following the question and answer session, Father O’Brien discussed poverty in Lawrence and how he helped establish the Cor Unum Meal Center there. He spoke of the Labels for Jars fundraising effort that has raised millions of dollars for the center and discussed the center’s history of serving over 540,000 meals.

Today, Cor Unum relies on one paid employee and thousands of volunteers to serve meals to the hungry in Lawrence.

“We can now actually feed anybody in the city of Lawrence who is hungry,” Father O’Brien said.

Cardinal O’Malley concluded the day with Mass, encouraging today’s Catholics on a path of discipleship.

“If we truly believe in Jesus, hope in him, and trust in his words and love him, then we must live the mission he has given to us -- to make disciples of all nations and to build a civilization of love,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his homily.

Dave Creamer, parishioner of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Seekonk who attended his fifth Boston Catholic Men’s Conference this year, praised the quality of the event.

“These were probably the best speakers in general since I’ve been coming to this conference,” Creamer said.

Creamer also said these conferences are like maintaining a car.

“It’s a miniature retreat,” he said. “It’s almost like tuning up your car. The car runs better after a tune-up, and I run better after coming to one of these.”